KidsMD Health Topics

Bullying in Children

  • From school shootings to highly publicized suicides among young people—like that of Massachusetts teen Phoebe Prince—bullying has been at the center of some of the most tragic (and transformative) news stories of the past decade. In 2001, the American Medical Association officially declared bullying a public health problem; and in Massachusetts, all school districts are now required to have a plan in place to address bullying incidents.

    The issue has become so heated that even the President and First Lady have taken a stand: In March 2011, the Obamas joined the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services in hosting an unprecedented conference on bullying prevention.

    Rather than the “no big deal” rite of passage it was once regarded as, educators, clinicians and parents have come to recognize bullying for what it really is—a serious societal issue that can have severe, long-lasting consequences for victims and perpetrators alike.

    Bullying is any kind of physical or verbal abuse that:

    • happens more than once
    • involves an imbalance of power (the victim is unable to, or afraid to, defend himself)
    • is done on purpose, with an intent to cause harm

    Types of bullying include:

    • physical attacks (for example, shoving into lockers, punching or kicking)
    • verbal attacks (calling names, making cruel remarks or “making fun” of someone)
    • social attacks (spreading rumors, sabotaging friendships or deliberately excluding others)
    • online attacks, or cyberbullying (texting, emailing or posting on a website anything that is cruel, untrue or otherwise harmful about a person)

    But there is good news, and cause for hope: The current focus on identifying, addressing and preventing bullying means that children who are being victimized—or are bullies themselves—have new options for getting help.

    How Boston Children’s Hospital Boston approaches bullying

    Boston Children’s Department of Psychiatry has long been at the forefront of providing expert, compassionate care to children and adolescents who are struggling with mental health issues, including depression and anxiety related to bullying.

    As one of the largest pediatric psychiatric services in New England, Boston Children’s has a team of expert psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers ready to help your child cope with bullying. We’ll work closely with her—and with you and your family—to:

    • devise a plan for stopping the abuse
    • help your child rebuild her self-esteem
    • teach her new, constructive thought patterns to help her succeed in the present and plan for the future

    And in addition to the mental health care we deliver in the hospital setting, our Children’s Hospital Neighborhood Partnerships provides a range of services to children at 15 Boston-area schools and five community health centers.

    Tackling bullying from another, equally important perspective, Boston Children’s has also launched BACPAC (Bullying And Cyberbullying Prevention & Advocacy Collaborative)—the first multidisciplinary anti-bullying collaborative based at a U.S. pediatric hospital. BACPAC:

    Bullying: Reviewed by Peter Raffalli, MD, and Shella Dennery, PhD, LICSW
    © Boston Children’s Hospital; posted in 2011

The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
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